One of my favourite one-season wonders and supernatural dramas in general was 1995's American Gothic, created by Shaun Cassidy (the singer and star of The Hardy Boys who more recently made Roar and Invasion). The show concerned the fictional town of Trinity in South Carolina, which is in the grip of a dictatorial yet charming Lucas Buck—a Sheriff with supernatural abilities. The show portrayed an ongoing struggle for control of orphan Caleb Temple, the biological son of the demonic Sheriff, with the boy's dead sister Merlyn and cousin Gail trying to prevent him falling under the charismatic Sheriff's spell.
Executive-produced by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Darkman) and Rob Tapert (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), I responded very positively to American Gothic as an impressionable 16-year-old. The X Files was at its height of popularity at the time (which helped grease my interest in all things spooky), but it also captured the feel of a cool Stephen King novel. Like too many good TV shows, it floundered in the ratings and CBS cancelled it after a single season—but at least it managed to end on a largely satisfying conclusion.
But what happened to its cast? Where are they now? What have they been doing? Below is a run-down of American Gothic's primary actors, with a little update on what they've been up to for the past 18 years. (Oh God, 18 years—where did the time go?)
Gary Cole (Sheriff Lucas Buck)
Cole played the demonic local sheriff with a swagger and relish I still fondly recall, having been previously known as the star of '80s drama Midnight Caller and as easy-going Mike Brady in two '90s spoof/remakes of The Brady Bunch. These days, Cole is a ubiquitous character actor on TV and film. You probably remember him best as drawling boss Lumbergh in Office Space (1999), a commentator on Dodgeball (2004), Will Ferrell's alcoholic father in Talladega Nights (2006), and the drug lord villain in Pineapple Express (2008).
He's also voiced a variety of characters throughout Family Guy's run, played the Vice-President in The West Wing (2003-06), was Sarah Walker's scoundrel dad in some Chuck episodes (2008-11), and had a brilliant recurring role as a Republican firearms expert in The Good Wife (2009). Oh, he was also utterly wasted as Sookie's dad in an episode of True Blood. To be honest, he's everywhere as a popular "hey it's that guy!" actor, easily enjoying the most varied success since American Gothic went off-air.
Lucas Black (Caleb Temple)
The cute but intense Southern child actor was a stand-out component of American Gothic, but Lucas Black's adult career hasn't prospered too well. He missed out on a role in The Horse Whisperer (1998) because of his Alabama accent, but went on to appear in Cold Mountain (2003) and Jarhead (2005) in-between modelling commitments.
His biggest chance for breakout success came with the second Fast & Furious sequel Tokyo Drift (2006), but that movie is widely seen as the franchise's nadir. Black's most notable appearances lately have been in the supernatural action movie Legion (2010) and Get Low (2010). I don't think he's quite cracked the curse of the child actor, but good luck to him.
Paige Turco (Gail Emory)
Before American Gothic she was best-known as intrepid reporter April O'Neill in the two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequels (including that really crappy one set in feudal Japan). Since Gothic was cancelled in '96, Turco's gone on to make largely unremarkable TV drama appearances—in the likes of Law & Order: SVU (2001), Damages, the Life on Mars US remake, Big Shots, and The Good Wife. She currently guest stars on CBS' Person of Interest. The most interesting fact about Turco is she's married to Irish actor Jason O'Mara (Terra Nova, Vegas).
Brenda Bakke (Selena Coombs)
Who can forget the sublime and incredibly sexy Brenda Bakke as southern belle schoolteacher Selena Coombs, purring every line of dialogue she was given? Unfortunately her career either side of Gothic is full of appearances in low-budget crapola nobody seriously wants to sit through, with the occasional mainstream highlight like L.A Confidential, Charmed, Dark Angel, CSI, NYPD Blue, Dollhouse, and The Mentalist.
Astonishingly, Bakke will turn 50 this summer, and the sultry good looks many fans also remember from Hot Shots: Part Deux (where she played a hybrid of every movie femme fatale) are unfortunately fading. I actually didn't recognise her when she appeared on Dollhouse a few years ago!
Sarah Paulson (Merlyn Temple)
Having played benevolent ghost Merlyn in American Gothic, Sarah Paulson's career didn't really take-off (the '90s highlight being sitcom Jack & Jill) until fairly recently. She headlined ABC's flop 2008 revival of rom-com Cupid, starred in the short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-07), had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives (2007-11), and appeared in the award-winning HBO movie Game Change (2012).
However, her biggest claim to fame's been regular appearances on FX's chilling drama America Horror Story—recently playing a lesbian wrongly committed to an asylum. The most interesting fact about Paulson is her having a two-year relationship with esteemed Broadway actress Cherry Jones (24, The Perfect Storm) who's a few decades her senior. Oooh.
Jake Weber (Dr Matt Crower)
The English actor who played the town's doctor was written out halfway through and replaced by a more threatening character, but thankfully Weber's had more luck since then. He isn't a household name, but has appeared in big movies like Meet Joe Black (1998), Pushing Tin (1999), The Cell (2000), U-571 (2000), and the Dawn of the Dead remake (2004). On TV he's best-known for co-starring alongside Patricia Arquette on seven seasons of supernatural drama Medium (2005-11), and has guest-starred in the likes of Law & Order (2001), Human Target (2011), House (2012) and most recently Elementary (2013).
Nick Searcy (Deputy Ben Healy)
One of the show's most lovable and sympathetic characters, Nick Searcy's applied that likability to many roles since. He was a regular on time-travel drama Seven Days (1998-2001) and has appeared in many TV Movies over the years, as well as movies like Cast Away (2000), Tigerland (2000), One Hour Photo (2002), Runaway Jury (2003), and The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2005). You may have also noticed him in Moneyball (2011). However, his biggest and current role is as a US Marshall on FX's Justified with Timothy Olyphant—where he effectively plays a more confident and experienced version of Ben from American Gothic.